Stake in Aquinos anti-graft drive >>> In this deeply divided country, the corruption discourse is and will remain disarmingly
powerful because it expresses one of those rare, seemingly universally shared goals that manages to bring people together
from different parties, political persuasions and classes...Whether President Aquino is aware of it or not, each of his actions
or pronouncements regarding corruption - what he considers corrupt and not corrupt, who he persecutes and doesn't persecute
- will be an attempt to fix the disputed boundaries in one place instead of another, according to his personal or class interests
and/or moral convictions. Where that place will be is not just an inconsequential philosophical question: it will decide what
is allowed and not allowed, what is seen as moral and immoral, who gets jailed, who gets perceived as clean, who gets to keep
their hacienda, who stays poor and how. Where the boundaries are drawn will determine, after all, how the promise of the corruption
discourse can be achieved: Either poverty will be reduced because, with everyone following the procedures, there might be
more money to pass around; but with the dominant still having the ultimate say in what and how much gets passed around, allowing
them to tell the dominated to be grateful for the charity. Or, poverty will be alleviated because, if everyone used public
office only for public gain, then everyone would be closer to getting what they rightfully deserve.
The Philippine Star - July 30,
After President Aquino announced that the previous administration had
tried to award P3.5 billion worth of flood control projects without bidding just five days before the handover of power, the
new chief of the Department of Public Works and Highways canceled 19 of the 86 deals. The 19, involving P934 million, were
the ones that came closest to pushing through.
Apart from canceling the deals, the new administration must go through
the list of contractors that were awarded the projects, to see if any should be placed on a black list. Negotiated
deals cannot be won without the right connections; the new administration must also identify every DPWH official who was involved
in awarding the contract...
Click here to read full editorial
Why Aquino won't be able to send grafters to prison WITH THE Aquino administration starting to fulfill its campaign promise
to eradicate corruption and send corrupt public officials to prison, it may be most fitting to take a closer look at the Ombudsman...As
a private organization with goals of achieving transparency, public accountability and good governance, CPA filed cases of
corruption against local and national officials...Since the time of Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, the Office of the Ombudsman
has been conducting interminable preliminary investigations. This, despite the specific provision in Sec. 12, Article XI of
our Constitution mandating the Ombudsman and his deputies, as protectors of the people, to "act promptly on complaints . .
." The term "promptly" among prosecutors in the Department of Justice means resolving a complaint in 90 days, within which
a case may be filed in court or dismissed for lack of merit or probable cause. Based on our experience, the Ombudsman takes
three to seven years of preliminary investigation. After seven or eight years, most likely a case is dismissed despite supporting
evidence from COA. In some instances, cases are filed before the Sandiganbayan after seven years, then (without a benefit
of a trial), a motion for reinvestigation by a defendant is entertained. The same prosecutors who filed the case, notwithstanding
the same incontrovertible evidence, would then recommend to the anti-graft court to dismiss the case and exonerate the accused.
CPA also continues to receive information that the resolution of graft cases is deliberately delayed to accommodate accused
prominent politicians who allegedly pay "tuition fees" for the delay. When the prying eyes of the media relax, they go for
the dismissal of the case(s)... We, therefore, recommend that President Aquino order an inventory of cases pending before
the Ombudsmans office and make a public disclosure as to the nature of alleged crimes, amount of public funds involved, status
of the cases as of date and the estimated time/target date of resolution. We, the taxpayers need to know how the Ombudsman
performs as protector of the people and how it resolves cases. It is our basic right to be informed. We have faith in the
sincerity of President Aquino and we have so much hope that he will uphold transparency and accountability in government.
But with the same Ombudsman, we doubt that his administration can put the grafters in prison. Something, therefore, must be
done. BOBBY BRILLANTE, convenor, Campaign for Public Accountability (CPA),
Why Fighting Corruption is not Enough (extract) >>> by Walden Bello, INQUIRER.net After nine years of witnessing increasing
poverty among the masses and spiraling corruption in high places, it is understandable that Filipinos see a strong correlation
between corruption and poverty. And the judgment of many is probably correct that the candidates that are free of the taint
of corruption stand the best chance of turning this country around. Moral leadership may not be a sufficient condition for
successful leadership but it certainly has become a necessary condition in a country that has been so deprived of exemplary
public figures like the Philippines. Corruption, however, has become the explanation for all our ills, and this brings with
it the danger that, after the elections, campaign rhetoric might substitute for hard analysis on the causes of poverty, leading
to wrong, ineffectual prescriptions for dealing with the countrys number one problem. Let me be more explicit: Corruption
must be condemned and corrupt officials must be prosecuted because being a violation of public trust, corruption undermines
faith in government and leads to an erosion of the moral bonds among citizens that serve as the foundation of good governance.
Corruption, however, is unlikely to be the main cause of poverty. Wrongheaded policies are, and clean-cut technocrats have
been responsible for more poverty than corrupt politicians.
Unreformed Politics in Congress Threaten the Transparency Drive >>> "While more than 70 percent of our people are poor, more
than 80 percent of the elected representatives in Congress and presidency belong to the exclusive multimillionaires club,
based on their own declared assets and liabilities," says CenPeg...Observers claim, many lawmakers make their gains and excesses
through the multimillion-peso pork barrel, which is for wholly discretionary spending. It is widely seen as an old style fiscal
instrument still employed in the budget that helps to foster continuing graft and corruption...the use of pork barrel funds
allows ample opportunities to defraud the state by irregular contracting procedures; by inflating prices or by agreeing and
securing kick-backs where the winning contractor will illegally return a percentage of the funds paid out.
WHILE IT WAS “WALANG WANG-WANG” THAT resonated best
with most of us, I think the statement of President Noynoy Aquino in his inaugural address that did most to define his administration
was his declaration that there can be no reconciliation without justice. This set the context for his administration’s
central theme: Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap. To those whose advice was that unity is paramount and we must now move
forward instead of looking back, the President’s response was: By all means, let us all move forward, hand in hand,
each doing his part, but let us do so while bringing to justice those who have wronged our country and our countrymen. For
to fail to do so, he said, ensures that these transgressions will be repeated.
The President then moved swiftly to give teeth to this thrust, first by his inspired move to
name lawyer Leila de Lima as justice secretary. De Lima’s universally acclaimed appointment brings hope that the Department
of Justice will once again be a reliable instrument in the prosecution of crime and the pursuit of justice.
The second move was the announcement of the formation of a Truth Commission to be headed by
former Chief Justice Hilario Davide. The reaction to the Davide appointment was mixed. While I personally continue to hold
Justice Davide in high regard, I would have preferred to see someone appointed in the mold of Jose W. Diokno in his prime,
when he successfully brought Harry Stonehill to justice decades ago; but it is extremely difficult to find one like Diokno
As we await the definition and the formation of the Truth Commission, I hope its scope and
functions will be clearly defined and well-focused so that it can satisfactorily complete its work within the term of President
Aquino. I for one think its focus must be corruption and only corruption at the national level during the Arroyo administration.
I believe there is nothing that will assure its failure more than a poorly defined or overly broad mandate where the scope
is so vast and ill-defined that its work will drag on for decades like the PCGG’s. I hope too that to ensure the acceptability
of the commission’s output, the commissioners appointed will be persons of unquestioned competence and probity.
As the government moves forward in its anti-corruption drive, I believe it is appropriate that
we in the private sector seriously consider what we should do to participate meaningfully in this effort. After all, corruption
is by no means limited to the government sector, and we have considerable cleaning up to do ourselves.
It was very timely therefore that last June 24, the Asian Institute of Management’s Center
for Corporate Governance convened a round-table discussion on a proposed project aimed at “Promoting Integrity and Accountability
in Business.” The proposed project would have two objectives:
To strengthen awareness and understanding of the social and economic costs of corruption among
Philippine businesses and to generate their support for anti-corruption efforts, and
To strengthen the ability of Philippine enterprises, including small and medium-sized companies,
to prevent corrupt and other unethical behavior among their employees.
With Transparency International co-founder Michael Hershman leading the discussion on collective
action in the fight against corruption, the major business organizations were well represented by their current or past heads.
While the group recognized that fighting corruption within our ranks would by no means be easy, we also readily agreed that
the onset of the Aquino administration provides us an outstanding opportunity to finally do something about this paramount
problem that is diverting scarce national resources from needed infrastructure and social projects, and causing our enterprises
to be uncompetitive against the rest of the world.
We agreed that the President and our most senior government officials must lead the way, first
by appointing persons of unquestioned competence and integrity to the key government agencies, and then by aggressively prosecuting
and punishing prominent crooks like those involved in the ZTE deal and the fertilizer scam. For our part, we agreed to support
AIM’s multi-faceted approach to combating corruption in the Philippine business community, whose core activity will
be a series of anti-corruption workshops in cities across the country, specifically for small and medium-sized businesses
which collectively constitute 99 percent of registered businesses and employ roughly 70 percent of the workforce in the Philippines,
and which are deemed to be more likely to be vulnerable to corruption risks.
As the first step, we hope to secure formal support from the business community by obtaining
signed pledges from prominent businesses to abide by ethical business practices and to support a national fight against corruption.
Hopefully, the signatories will be the CEOs themselves. It is hoped that the effort will help raise awareness of this anti-corruption
initiative and will help build momentum for the project. The first 50 signatories will be designated as charter members of
the campaign, which AIM proposes to call Business Fighting Corruption.
Our intention is to publicly sign these initial pledges at a meeting of the business community,
which we hope will be graced by President Aquino. Thus do we hope to formalize our commitment to be part of his campaign against
Ramon R. del Rosario Jr. is the chairman of the Makati Business Club. Please send your comments to
Stopping the tanks
For the presidential
candidacy of Benigno Aquino III, “reliving” the spirit of People Power was not only motive power but also campaign
promise. Tuesday’s commentary by former NEDA director Dennis Arroyo, a survey of “best practices” in anti-corruption
initiatives in Asia, offered an insightful look into the many ways in which People Power can be put to work in the challenge
of good governance.
While the study acknowledged the leadership role of Philippine non-government organizations
in the region—a direct result of the anti-dictatorship struggle and the post-Marcos Constitution’s recognition
of NGOs and people’s organizations—it took a closer look at other initiatives by other NGOs in Asia, as lessons
the Philippines can learn from.
Of the many themes binding the various lessons, we think the following three in particular
are most instructive:
The centrality of information. The survey recognizes the vital importance of continuing access
to complete and current information involving government activity. The Open or Online Procedures Enhancement system for civil
applications of Seoul, South Korea, for instance, allows the public to monitor “the contents of the application, approval
time of the application, administrative procedures, names of the officials assigned to the applications, and their contact
In Bangladesh, the survey notes, the Roads and Highways Department’s website discloses
“much information on infrastructure projects: road and bridge data, names of personnel, financial project information,
the contractor database, the tender database, the document database. It also includes audit reports. Every month the site
updates financial and physical information on all of the department’s infrastructure projects.”
For these innovative governance measures to take root, and to take effect, in the Philippines,
the access to information promised by the Constitution and reflected in the proposed Freedom of Information Act must become
The importance of comparison. The survey highlighted several Asian initiatives, under the
rubric of “social audits,” that allow a concerned public to compare what a particular government agency said it
would do and what it actually ended up doing.
The Parivartan NGO in India, for instance, “has reviewed 68 public works in Northeast
Delhi via hearings, and it has found that many roads exist only on paper. Proof in Bangalore has persuaded the city government
to release quarterly public statements on financial performance. These statements compare revenues and expenditures with the
original budget estimates.”
Philippine NGOs have also done similar social audits. What seems lacking from these well-intentioned
programs, however, is another kind of comparison. As we only know all too well, it isn’t enough to compare a government
unit’s budget with actual spending, because the cost of corruption is often already factored into the budget assumptions
and estimates. What is needed is to compare, say, a government unit’s standards in building a classroom or laying down
a kilometer of road, with the competitive standards of the private sector.
The necessity of sanctions. The real object of the initiatives included in the survey is improved
governance. In other words, “reliving” the spirit of People Power does not mean, say, transparency for transparency’s
sake; it means assertively using transparency to make change happen.
When we read, for instance, that “Because the NGO Lok Satta has organized citizens to
monitor fuel bunks, cheating at the pump has effectively stopped in all the 1,500 gasoline stations of Andhra Pradesh, India,”
we can see the direct relationship between monitoring and the effective end of cheating.
In the Philippine setting, it seems almost a given that this direct relationship between people-powered
initiative and actual government reform requires the use of sanctions or even punitive measures. Many government officials
have failed the so-called lifestyle checks. But how many have been removed from office or convicted of corruption? Many candidates
have failed to meet the Commission on Elections deadline for submitting campaign spending reports, or have submitted evidently
spurious accounts, but has anyone ever been disqualified from office?
As in Edsa 1986, People Power means not only monitoring troop movements or setting up a rival
source of information, but actually and essentially stopping the tanks.
What fertilizer scam
President Aquino’s anti-corruption agenda
How can P-Noy reverse the culture
of corruption that has been one of the main themes of the Arroyo administration?
Corruption has become so pervasive
and expensive that we sometimes long for the good old “10 percenters” of the Marcos era. Perhaps that is why the
Marcoses have had election success.
This culture of corruption is
not just in the government sector.
A foreign friend of mine who sells
medical equipment once asked me what was wrong with the Philippines.
I asked why? He said that the
doctors in hospitals where he was selling medical equipment had asked for a 30-percent commission! No wonder that the cost
of medical care keeps on rising, becoming unbearable for rich and poor alike.
What is sad is that these are
doctors are not underpaid government officials and employees!
Government is, however, still
more corrupt. My friend was also selling to a municipal hospital. He said the mayor had called him to complain about his proposal.
My friend said, “But Mayor, I already gave you my best price.” The mayor said, “double it!”
Bringing honesty back to the Philippines
will be a tough job for President Aquino. What should he do?
There are four major thrusts that
the President should have:
1. Bring closure to major outstanding
2. Identify other major anomalous
3. Prevent future anomalies.
4. Discourage corruption and dishonesty
Closure on outstanding anomalies
There are many unresolved anomalies,
which the Arroyo administration has protected.
In 2004, the Supreme Court stopped
the Mega Pacific Comelec automation contract and recommended that charges be filed.
Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez
said there was insufficient evidence.
There are many others, like the
fertilizer scam, NBN-ZTE, Hello Garci, etc.
To be able to successfully prosecute
these cases, it may be necessary to first impeach the Ombudsman.
Investigation of other anomalies
There are a number of giant government
procurements that look anomalous.
One case is the Comelec Smartmatic
Automated Election System. A serious investigation will show that there was bias in favor of Smartmatic in the bid evaluation,
contract terms, and failure to properly test the PCOS machines.
The continued importation of rice
should likewise be investigated.
The P500-million Batangas Geographic
Information System (GIS) project and the P50-million Pampanga GIS project should likewise be looked into.
I am not familiar with public
works projects; however, I feel that investigation will uncover numerous cases.
Amendment of the Procurement Reform
While it has been said that we
have many good laws, what we need is better implementation.
There is one big exception, the
RA 9184 or the Procurement Reform Law. Many of the anomalous projects we have mentioned were made possible by taking advantage
of many weaknesses of the law.
The law has the following weaknesses:
1. Section 32 provides for pass
or fail criteria and the selection of the lowest qualified bidder (looks good!)
2. But Section 36 provides for
bids with a single qualified bidder to push through.
Corrupt bidders and officials
take advantage of these procedures to favor a bidder not necessarily with the lowest bid but one with the highest bribes.
Section 33 provides for weighted
scoring in the choice of consultants. However, the process does not provide for a comparison of all the bidders.
All bidders are rated but the
law does not allow the opening of all the financial bids. The technical bids are rated and ranked. The qualifications of the
bidders are checked for qualification.
The financial bid of the qualified
bidder with highest rating is opened first. If the bid is within the budget, the bid is awarded.
Unfortunately, there could have
been much more cost-effective bids, which were not considered. This is a lost opportunity for government.
Prevention of future graft
An administration with the political
will to investigate and prosecute anomalous government procurement will discourage future anomalous bids.
Bidders and government officials
will not risk being caught.
Government will get better value
and be able to provide better infrastructure, health care and education at lower cost.
Businesses will thrive and provide
increased employment. Poverty will be dramatically reduced.
(The article reflects the personal
opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines. The author
is President of Systems Sciences Consult, Inc. and member of the MAP National Issues Committee. )